Assisted Living: Not Your Parents' Nursing Home

The Arbors Blog
Posted by The Arbors on Sep 28, 2016 8:33:14 AM

Two seniors eating a meal in assisted livingThe words "nursing home" often strike fear into the hearts of aging Americans. While nursing homes have changed, your parents' attitudes toward them probably haven't.

Seniors fear the loss of independence and moving into a nursing home more than they fear death, according to the “Aging in Place in America” study commissioned by Clarity and The EAR Foundation. The survey asked people aged 65 and older about their greatest fears. Death was rated at just 3 percent. Moving into a nursing home was at 13 percent, and loss of independence was 26 percent.

Many older Americans aren't even aware that there are other alternatives. After all, the first assisted living facility, Park Place, opened in 1981. Designed to offer independent living while offering minimal care, assisted living helps older and minimally disabled people the ability to stay independent.

Assisted Living is designed to be different

Assisted Living is very different from skilled nursing or nursing home care. Nursing home care is focused on meeting government requirements while Assisted Living focuses on the resident's wants and needs. Assisted Living was specifically designed to provide an alternative to people who need minimal care, but do not need skilled nursing.

Assisted Living

Nursing Home

  • Provides meals, although some living arrangements may also have kitchens
  • Provides 24/7 care and supervision
  • Private apartments or homes decorated and furnished by resident
  •  Provides all meals
  • Individualized care plans
  • Semi-private or private rooms with hospital furnishings
  • Assistance with bathing, dressing and daily activities as needed
  •  No or limited transportation
  • Transportation available for activities and doctor visits
  • Staff determines schedule; often the same or similar for all residents
  • RNs or physicians offer visits for medical care
  •  Limited community activities
  • Focus on resident needs and wants
  • Resident determines schedule
  • Community activities and excursions
  • Soundproofed homes and apartments


Assisted Living offers customized care

An important difference between Assisted Living and nursing homes is that residents of Assisted Living can request as much or as little help as they need. They may ask to be reminded to take their medication at 10 a.m. and be helped with a bath twice a week. Their care is customized to their needs with the goal of maintaining independence.

For example, if your mother wakes up and decides she doesn't want a shower that day, no one will say anything at an Assisted Living facility. Only those designated by your parents will receive notice that something has changed in their routine.

If your parents like a glass of wine after dinner, they can store the bottle in their apartment. If your father likes an occasional cigar, there are plenty of areas where he can smoke.

Assisted Living ensures confidentiality

Confidentiality is a watchword. Although residents have the freedom to do what they want, staff are trained to notice and document signs of potential problems. As the caregiver designated in your parent’s care plan, you are informed about all of these issues.

Assisted Living promotes privacy

Assisted Living apartments can be locked. Each individual has set up an individualized care plan that documents the circumstances required for someone to enter the home. Otherwise, all visitors must knock and be admitted to enter.

Assisted Living offers peace and quiet

Another difference between Assisted Living apartments and nursing homes is noise, especially at night. Your home is your haven, and nothing should intrude. Assisted Living  apartments or houses are soundproofed, so outside noise is minimal. Help is available when and if you need it, and only when or if you need it.

Assisted Living provides nutritious, delicious meals

One of the most glaring differences between Assisted Living and nursing homes is the diet. Most Assisted Living dining rooms offer – and pride themselves on – three nutritious meals a day. Many offer restaurant-style dining in beautifully decorated dining rooms.

Assisted Living gives individualized attention

Assisted Living focuses on maintaining residents’ independence while meeting their needs. Staff members grow to know your parent's needs and wants and even some of their quirks. They’re trained in the best way to communicate with people who may have auditory, visual or memory impairments.

Assisted Living provides a stimulating environment

A stimulating environment enhances the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of residents. Assisted Living common areas offer numerous places and opportunities to socialize—in the dining room during meals, at the beauty salon or barber shop, in the theatre before or after a movie, in the pub while enjoying a late-night snack, in the courtyard or on a porch during summer days, while gardening, and in the sunroom.

Assisted Living activities are designed for socialization

Although your parents live in their own home, they can participate in group activities or excursions as much as or as little as they prefer. Popular on-campus activities include gardening, exercise, entertainment, and spiritual activities. Excursions to a nearby town frequently include shopping, museums, and festivals.

The best way to experience Assisted Living is to try it

You can talk to your parents until you’re blue in the face about Assisted Living. Instead, let them experience it. Plan a regularly scheduled event, take a tour or consider scheduling a short stay at a nearby Assisted Living community.

do you have questions about assisted living? get the answers with this free guide

Topics: Assisted Living, Financial Resources